The pandemic and the world of remote working continue to highlight what employers keep saying – namely that graduates aren’t prepared and don’t have the skills to be effective in the work environment.
While more investment needs to be pumped into the education sector so that graduates are ready to enter the workplace, there must be training too for existing employees if they are to keep up with the pace of modern technology, digital transformation, AI and automation. Upskilling and reskilling are vital if businesses are to remain competitive in today’s uncertain world. The UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 8.8% of working hours – equivalent to 255m jobs, $3.7 trillion or 4.4% of the world’s GDP – were lost to the pandemic in 2020.
According global online learning platform, Coursera’s 2021 Global Skills Report, there are other areas of concern. It quotes a survey by the Wall Street Journal which found that although 92% of survey respondents in North America said that soft skills were as important as strong technical skills, 89% struggled to find individuals with those skills. Attributes such as communication, organisation, critical thinking, creativity and teamwork are in short supply it would seem.
Looking at the global picture, the report revealed that Latin American countries are the top performers when it comes to mobile technology – a major reason being that many more people access the internet via their mobile devices in the region (422m users are expected by 2025). Start-Up Chile (SIP) is one example of an innovative government programme aimed at entrepreneurs to ensure that the westerly South American country can remain a global tech hub. Fifty countries have used its template to create their own initiatives.
A skilled global workforce
Europe still faces challenges when it comes to scarce digital talent. According to European Commission (EC) figures, almost half (44%) of 16-74 year olds do not have basic digital skills despite the fact that nine of 10 jobs will require these skills. However, according Coursera’s research, Europe does have high levels of technology with Finland leading the way globally in machine learning, probability and statistics and data management. Luxembourg, Switzerland and Norway are in the world’s top five for entrepreneurship.
Vietnam has been one of the better performing Asian economies, helped in part by its ability to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). Having achieved close to 3% GDP growth in 2020, the south east Asian economy is seen as a viable supply chain and manufacturing base alternative to China. Indonesia has also benefitted from investment from giants such as Alibaba Cloud, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft and Google’s Cloud Platform (GCP), helping to make it a leader in cloud computing.
The Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region is particularly strong on cybersecurity with many countries strengthening their systems against cyber criminals. With spending in the region of 4% of GDP, research and development is particularly important to Israel, while Tunisia places great importance on its status as an important hub for start-ups. The Rwandan economy, which was experiencing a boom prior to COVID, is still expected to grow by more than 5% in 2021.
Although there are many reasons to be cheerful and the recovery post-pandemic is gathering steam, if we are to safeguard the economic future of our countries, and achieve strong, sustained and balanced growth, we must ensure that we have a skilled global workforce.